How to Influence Our Kids the Right Way

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You know when you know something about yourself, but refuse to admit it to yourself? Only to have someone else say it to you. Yeah, been there recently and it wasn’t fun.

Because it was my 12 year son that decided to speak the truth to me.

“Dad, I never wanted to play football. I only did it for you…..”

BOOM.

Yep. My first born, my own flesh and blood, called me out for living vicariously through him (He wasn’t supposed to know that!!).

In reality I think I was fooling myself. While he is athletic, my son’s true talents and gifting are in other amazing areas. I still somehow felt the need to have him sign up and play football.

It was a weird situation when he dropped that bomb on me. I didn’t know whether to be upset at him or proud of him. He never had a passion and love for the game like I did, but sacrificed his body and mind for a game his dad loved, all the while having to deal with a difficult, loud, and boisterous head coach.

A head coach who was vilified by opposing team’s parents because of the way he would “bark” at his players during the games. I always asked my son if it bothered him when his coach would yell at him during practices and games:

“Doesn’t bother me dad, I get it from you and mom all the time…..”

Touche. The boy had a point.

Going through that experience allowed me to see the influence over my son was stronger than expected. As parents I believe, even if its a little bit, that knowingly or unknowingly we influence our kids in a way where we get them to do things we want in certain situations.

I only wanted my son to play football if he wanted to. I did not want him to play because I wanted him to or because I played before. As you read this, don’t think I didn’t tell him those same words before I registered him, because I did. I was very clear about him playing and that the final decision was his.

But that may have been the problem. I said those words, but now I’m realizing my body language may have communicated something else.

Side note – Google on Non-verbal communication:

It’s important to recognize, though, that it’s our nonverbal communication—our facial expressions, gestures, eye contact, posture, and tone of voice—that speak the loudest.

This blog post was summarized in that one line.

My son knew it would give me great joy to see him strap on pads and a helmet and compete on the gridiron for the same club I played for 20 years ago. Whatever reservations he had at the time did not trump wanting to make his father proud.

And that ladies and gentlemen is what I call the wrong way to influence you kids.

As parents I believe, even if its a little bit, that knowingly or unknowingly we influence our kids to get them to do things we want in certain situations.

What was I showing him without knowing? How did I respond when we came to me about something else that he was interested in? These and many other questions made me think about how I was living my life as a father regarding the things I cared about the most, and how my kids viewed it.

I was influencing them the wrong way. Talking to them about how they should live and what they should care about, but displaying a different commentary in my own day to day life.

So, how do we influence our kids the right way?

When we want our kids to make the right choices in life today and in the future, the way we live our life, even the small details, goes a long way in determining if they will make those right choices or not.

Assuming we all want our kids to live a life of purpose, using their talents and gifts to live positively as they grow older, we must be the catalyst to ensure it happens by living a life of the same stature.

Nothing wrong with me enjoying a little pigskin now and then, but when it becomes a priority in my life over other things that matter most, then yeah, it just might be a problem. It might also be a symptom of other problems if my son is putting himself in harms way just to see me happy (that’s for another day and another blog post).

So again, how do we influence our kids the right way? Maybe take an introspective look at our lives and identify if the values of our actions match the values of the words we say to them.

Or maybe just give them the love and attention they desire in their individual uniqueness so they won’t feel the need to please us for it.

Have your kids ever done something they really didn’t like to do but did it anyway just to please you? Or do you know of a time you’ve negatively influenced your child?

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